There’s no denying that economic times are tough. Just take a walk down Main Street in Nashua and you will see the evidence — businesses such as Coronis Cleaners and Cookies by Design have closed, leaving empty, dark storefronts that not so long ago were alive and bustling.
Enter innovative art promoter Meri Goyette, who has a keen eye for opportunity. Instead of getting discouraged by the vacancies and economic struggles in her hometown of over 50 years, she saw a unique chance to promote the arts while giving the storefronts a much-needed facelift. Over the past couple of months, the space at the Downtowner/Nelson Building at 100 Main St. has been transformed into an intriguing display of paintings, sculptures and photographs. What once was a lonely reminder of the times is now alive with creative energy, attracting visitors who love art, and taking the unsuspecting passerby by surprise.
I feel that the arts are important in the economic development of a community,” said Goyette, who started out years ago as a volunteer with the Nashua Center for the Arts (Arts and Science), and continued her ambition by representing talented emerging artists in Boston at various locations such as the Hotel Meridian, the Prudential, the Statehouse and Quincy Market for nearly 15 years. The endeavor she affectionately calls “Out-And-Out Art” has become her life’s passion and she has now brought her windows of art to Nashua.
“My commitment is, and always has been, to the artists and my community by working to create cultural assets, identity, and sense of place,” she said.
The artwork displayed at 100 Main St. was provided by students and graduates from Rivier College. Goyette initially contacted Rivier’s Art Gallery Director, Sr. Theresa Couture, and planted the seed for this project, which is now titled “Art Under Glass.”
“Students responded very positively. Any exposure for them is great,” Sr. Theresa said. The school art faculty chose artists who had produced especially good work for the exhibit, including recent graduates as well as current students. The artists on display at “Art Under Glass” from the greater Nashua area are Megan Call ’11, Christine Chouinard ’09, Athos Fonseca ’11, Abby Frain ’10, Patty Granger ’10, Rebecca Marcotte ’08 and Steven Southerland ’09.
In an effort to blend art and business, the owner of Downtowner/Nelson gave “Art Under Glass” the green light, and property manager Christie Cardullo wasted no time in offering support.
“We set up the track lighting and provide electricity for the display, which is illuminated 24 hours a day. The building definitely looks so much more attractive. I have been contacted by nearby businesses and have been told that it looks great,” Cardullo said. The display makes the vacant space more noticeable and gives pedestrians a reason to pause, Cardullo added.
Meanwhile, Meri Goyette continues her tireless pursuit of other spaces that can be transformed by art and culture. She has many projects in the works, including reviving the annual concert series “Thursday Night Live on the 200 Block” as well as a creative gala fundraiser, “Let’s Have a Ball.” Goyette’s next art display may be popping up soon at another vacant Nashua storefront — an intricate array of late 19th-century trade cards from Greater Nashua businesses that Goyette has meticulously collected over the years. She has her eye on a couple of locations.
Her daily routine consists of writing and sending out letter proposals, and searching for potential business partners by phone.
“The opportunities are all there,” Goyette said, explaining that it is a matter of getting people to embrace art’s potential. “Art in unexpected places can be a vehicle to bring communities together, to enlighten, to educate, to enjoy.”